Intersex children often experience medical interventions when they are still infants. Reportedly, this can cause long-term psychological and physical harm. The ACT has introduced a draft bill that would ban these medical and surgical procedures on children until they are old enough to decide what they would want for themselves, reports Pedestrian TV.
A MAJOR WIN FOR THE INTERSEX COMMUNITY
Cody Smith, the senior project officer at Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) feels that this bill is a huge step forward for Australia and has the potential to safeguard future children from a lot of unexplained hurt.
“As an odd kid that grew up in Canberra with unexplained surgical scars and a few too many doctor’s visits, it’s difficult to find the words that capture all the things I feel on a day like today,” says Cody.
“There’s a deep sense of pride and joy at being part of the process that produced this groundbreaking work … [and] a very tangible grief for the children that couldn’t be protected sooner and for the activists we’ve lost along the way.”
Executive director at IHRA Morgan Carpenter similarly feels that these surgeries can do more harm than good by forcing children to assimilate into a gender binary.
“The persistence of so-called ‘normalising’ interventions, intending to make the bodies of children with intersex variations fit gender stereotypes, has been our most intractable issue,” he says.
Although being born intersex is not uncommon, it is worryingly rare to hear about. According to a report released by Human Rights Watch, as many as one in 2,000 babies are born with enough atypical sex characteristics for doctors to propose surgery. There is dark history in healthcare of doctors performing unnecessary and irreversible procedures on infants leaving them with lifelong complications.
WHAT THE NEW DRAFT BILL PROPOSES
The new draft bill would put an end to deferrable medical procedures and treatments for intersex children. The legislations language doesn’t restrict treatments that are considered necessary to avoid illness or disease, but it would mean that surgeries and other medical interventions will be held off until an intersex child is old enough to understand and make decisions for themselves, reports ABC News.
The decisions that some doctors and parents have made have had lasting effects on intersex people. Many times they will report feeling they were robbed of choices that should have been their own. According to Pedestrian TV, many healthcare providers are opting for holding off on irreversible, deferrable treatments now.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says that in lieu of the current practices, parents of intersex children would receive information and support so they can make the best choice for their child and the child’s future. “Where things can be deferred without any medical risk that obviously allows the views of the child as they grow up to be taken into account,” he says.
Parents who would seek further medical intervention would have options. For lower risk, less invasive surgeries, healthcare experts could be conferred for advice. For complicated medical cases, a panel of five medical experts would advise and must contain one expert from each field of medicine including ethics, human rights, variation in sex characteristics and psychosocial support, while at least one panel member must be a person with a variation in sex characteristics, reports ABC News.
“It is essential that you get the best medical advice, that there is ethical advice provided, and lived experience provided as well, as part of a process,” says Andrew Barr.